Cusco is a city of true beauty, which is regarded as the 'Archaeological Capital of the Americas', with a delightful blend of indigenous and colonial Spanish architecture. One of the most impressive architectural attractions are the incredible Inca walls, created from enormous granite blocks that were carved to fit together perfectly without the aid of mortar beds. Many of the walls were simply built upon during the construction of a new Spanish city. It's a lasting tribute to the ingenuity of the Incas that their anti-seismic design has survived the test of time, especially when compared to the Spanish colonial architecture that has been rebuilt several times following a wave of earthquakes that have hit the city.
The city's fascinating history dates back to 1200AD and the first Inca ruler, Manco Capac. Cusco expanded greatly during the 15th century under the rule of the greatest Inca, Pachacutec, who led a drive that spread the boundaries of the Inca Empire as far south as Chile and Argentina, and north to include Ecuador and Columbia. This rapid expansion was halted by the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors, led by Francisco Pizarro who, following the murder of the Inca Atahaulpa in Cajamarca, marched into Cusco in 1534 and claimed it for King Charles V. This invasion opened the gates to a cultural mix that has left its imprint on every aspect of Peruvian culture, and especially in Cusco. One of the first things you will notice in Cusco is the thin air; the city is located at an altitude of 3,360 metres above sea level. It is best to spend the first few hours in the city resting and getting used to the lower oxygen content of the atmosphere.